Friday, September 23, 2011

Picture Perfect Brunch (Yes, it's part 4)

I woke up at 7:00 on Sunday morning. For me that's sleeping late. But just this one day, I gave myself permission to miss the sunrise. And the earth didn't spin off its axis or anything so I may try it again sometime. Not any time soon, mind you. I did the usual: let the dogs out/in, made coffee, sent the border collie out for the paper, gave her a treat and the beagle one for not running out while the door was open.

I poured myself a cup of coffee and looked around. The flowers looked prettier in my house than they had at the church. I took stock of what I had. I folded back the aluminum on the big tray and tasted a cold piece of grilled chicken. Not bad. I'd just heat everything up and serve the enormous leftover chocolate covered strawberries for dessert. I had champagne. No orange juice. An oversight of epic proportions when the highlight of brunch was to be mimosas. (I was saved later in the morning by The Food Maven who wanted to know if she could bring anything.)

I took my coffee and went outside. It needed something...I grabbed a hundred or so ribbon wands and stuck them in flower pots and on the front door arrangement. I found a bag of rose petals the florist had provided to throw at the couple's going away, but we'd used sparklers instead. I scattered the petals on the walk. I used the rest of the leftover flowers to make arrangements that I placed through the house.

A couple of hours later I had a house full of friendly chatter and a newlywed couple who took great delight in using their new titles.

"Have you seen my WIFE?"

"Did my HUSBAND come through here?"

Could these two be more darling?

They put on their wedding attire and had planned to go around town to some interesting place to have a photo shoot together since they opted not to see each other before the ceremony. When the photographers showed up they decided to just take the pics at home. They looked around for a places to shoot but I knew exactly what I wanted them to do. The bride's father is the original owner of a 1973 Plymouth Duster which he bought on September 10 (!) when he was a senior in high school. He drove it to his prom and last year our son drove it to his. How many fathers and sons can say they drove the same car to prom? I thought it would have been nice for them to used it to leave the church in but our little bridezilla wouldn't have it. When the photographers saw the car however...

When will everyone realize they should listen to me?

My husband wiped down the car and pulled it into the yard.

Do you remember the pictures at your wedding? I remember mine. The photographer was some stuffy guy with no imagination who I suspect hadn't shot many weddings before. Funerals, maybe. My daughter's wedding however was shot by a team of 3 photographers who documented every little detail from the rehearsal dinner to the day after photo shoot. My daughter found Becca Yager Photography online and we could not be more pleased at the job they did. Professional and fun they blended in everywhere they went (which was difficult because all 3 of them were gorgeous) and were a blast to work with. I only have a couple of previews to show you but coming in a couple of weeks there will be...ahem... (3 photographers for 3 days?) a LOT of photos. I captured a couple of shots of them at work.

One of the things included in their package was a photo booth at the reception. I learned something about myself. I have a weakness for pink feather boas and having my picture made acting silly with friends. I know! A revelation, right? I don't know if anyone else enjoyed it as much as I did. Maybe they couldn't get to it because I was always there.

Me to the photographer: "Hi it's me again!"

Adorable photographer with a camera as big as she was:  hysterical laughter & bemused eye rolling.

I'm equally excited and concerned about those pictures. Let's just say I was having a really good time.  And apparently it was entertaining to at least one of my daughter's friends.

"Brittany, your mom is photo-rific tonight."

I think that's about the time I was having my picture made with handcuffs holding up a sign that said, "But, Officer..."

Maybe I won't be posting so many of those pictures.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wedding Mission Debriefing: Part 3 (The Reception)

First Dance: Memory in the Making
I think my favorite part of the entire evening was when I walked into the lobby of the building where we were having cocktail hour before moving to the main hall for dinner and dancing. It was just what we had envisioned. Several people had gotten drinks and were lingering around the fountain enjoying the lovely September evening by candlelight. I entered the lobby and everyone had already been there long enough to be having a good time. I thought "What a great party, and WE"RE throwing it!" There was laughter and the din of conversation with our friend, Glen who was playing an acoustical set in the background. One of my first stops was to make my way to him and give him a kiss. If there is anything in the world more wonderful than old friends, I want someone to tell me what it is.

I looked out over the crowd. I made my way through to find several of our friends, chatted a bit, and then went in search of my husband. He had a surprise in the works and I wanted to know how if everything was running on schedule. You see, my son in law's favorite local musician, had been persuaded by my husband (who can be very single minded when he's trying to accomplish something) to come and play just one song. The band,  Mudflap King, was supposed to announce that they had tried to learn the groom's favorite song (which they had) but wanted it to be perfect and then introduce Eddie Smith to sing  Memory in the Making. To all of us the song was the unofficial theme of the wedding.

The entire bit went exactly as planned and my daughter jumped up and down with joy while my son in law stared in disbelief. Clearly The General had plotted this for some time and never let on. They were in shock. They had their first dance to the groom's favorite song and then the bride and her dad danced to The Way You Look Tonight by Sinatra. Next up was the groom and his mother who is one of the most charming women you would ever want to meet. Finally, my husband welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming and officially opened the buffet.

The rest of the night was spent eating delicious food, seeing friends, dancing, and listening not only to Mudflap King who had been hired to play the gig, but Mr. Eddie Smith who did not play his one song and bow out but stayed all night and jammed with the band to the delight of everyone, especially the bride and groom. At one point during the night my husband and his friend, Glen, even sang backup on Midnight Rider.

Do you know what happens at a wedding when the party is over? When the smoke from the sparklers clears, all the leftover food, alcohol, favors, and flowers must be packed up and put in the car (in our case several cars) to go home. Linens must all be collected so they can be returned to the rental place (don't forget the hangers or they may charge you!) Everyone is exhausted because the adrenaline that kept you going through the entire process has now left the building and your body realizes all at once it feels worse than Elvis after a pill, booze, and jelly doughnut binge. It's the middle of the night, you may be slightly tipsy, and people are throwing everything slapdash into your car. You hope those black tablecloths, which are now invisible, are all making it. Once you get home the flowers and food are hauled into the house. The rest can wait until tomorrow. It's 2:00 AM and you collapse into bed.

If you are lucky you can sleep late the next morning. I, on the other hand was hosting a Sunday brunch for everyone who hadn't had enough celebrating...because I'm crazy that way.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wedding Mission Debriefing: Part 2 (The Ceremony)

I stood in the doorway arm in arm with the bride's baby brother, who happens to be twenty years old and  6'3". I took a deep breath and looked around. I saw the familiar faces of lifelong friends, team mates and parents from softball days, family. The room radiated with love and the bride and groom hadn't even shown up yet. One day about a month ago when my daughter was saying that she had really wanted a destination wedding I said to her, "That would be nice, but when those doors open at the church all the people who love you and care about you will be in the same room. That won't happen again until your funeral and then you won't be there to enjoy it." I stood in the doorway with my son realizing how right I'd been. I couldn't help thinking that heaven will be much like that. Familiar faces. Permeating love.

Only I probably won't be wearing a push up bra and feathers in my hair.

I made eye contact with as many people as I could on the way to my seat. The super snark in me thought how funny it would be for my son and me to break arms and race each other down the aisle the way we had across so many parking lots over the years...I controlled myself. We took our seats. I kept wondering why I was so calm. My mother hadn't been near me all day so she couldn't have slipped me a Valium the way she had on my own wedding day.  I wasn't nervous or jittery...just ridiculously happy. At twenty-five and thirty-two I had the feeling the bride and groom had enough experience behind them to know what they wanted when they found it. If she hadn't finished college yet, or if I didn't care for him, I may have had a very different reaction.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen came down and took their places to Canon in D followed by Westminster chimes and the entrance of the minister and a very dashing groom. I turned back toward the door...this was the moment I'd been dreading. I was afraid I would forget to stand up, or burst into some kind of maternal hysteria.

There she was.

On her dad's arm looking glamorous and glowing and confident, as if she did this every day. My husband looked positively stoic! We had suddenly become a Stepford wedding family. Where was the wise cracking mother of the bride?  Where was the emotional, reactionary father? "I'll check the closets after the service," I thought. "Maybe our pods are around somewhere. No. That's Invasion of the..--Oh good grief, I'm running down a list of sci-fi movies in my head--FOCUS!"

I don't think I really need to explain all that happened next. I'm assuming you've been to a wedding. There was the exchange of vows and rings, and the lighting of the unity candle. The minister, who was from their church and had done their premarital counseling added a twist of his own. Near the end he picked up a large crucifix (something that looks very out of place in a Southern Baptist church) and explained that it was a gift for the groom. It was meant to be a reminder that for both people, but especially for men, marriage means a dying to self. "No place else in scripture is anyone commanded to love anyone like Christ loves The Church, except husbands." He had a few more comments along these lines and I was thinking I needed to pick up a crucifix on the way home. Maybe I'd nail it over the front door and point to it when my husband is balancing the checkbook.

Finally, he introduced the new couple for the first time. There were cheers and as they made their way back up the aisle I turned to see a fluttering of pink from the ribbon wands (A tutorial on those is coming too!) I'd spent hours making while watching Mad Men on demand. We made our exit. Next up: pictures,then on to the reception!

Now let me explain something to you if you are planning a are going to WORK at a fever pitch with a million thoughts and emotions running through your mind. It goes like this:

"Those pillar candles were expensive, we want to take them with us. Where's my lip gloss? Why is he standing there? Oh thank you, for offering to pull my car around...where are my keys? Um...come with me to the Bride's's the key for IT? My feet are starting to hurt. 'Oh yes, we're so glad you could come, head on over to cocktail hour! Where did the bride and groom go? Oh, of course pictures in the courtyard. Who's jeans are these? What time is it? Yes, the new weddings are shorter than they use to be. Our bride and groom didn't want to stand up there while some four minute song played and everyone stared at them. Awkward. Is that everything? Where's my husband? My phone? Thank you for helping...see you at the reception!"

I then drove myself, in a car that smelled like melted wax, perfume, and flowers, around the expressway --which I honestly don't remember at all--to the reception hall. As I turned the corner I could see the pink light emanating from inside. Oh goodness, our little bride is going to LOVE I parked I could see that things were already underway...

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wedding Mission Debriefing: Part 1

It's over. I know, I know; you want to know if I cried. I didn't. I was so calm, in fact, that I could have been at Kroger buying a box of cereal. But let's deconstruct the weekend in order.

Friday night Rehearsal & Dinner: I received the key to the Bride's Room this night from the wedding hostess and so I wheeled in a suitcase with all manor of make-up and hair products, an assortment of jewelry and the fascinators for our hair (a tutorial on those is coming). I shlepped 17 pillar candles for the equipment that the church uses. Our hostess advised me to burn them down some ahead of time so wax didn't get on the carpet. So on Tuesday I lit them all and our house looked like we were hosting the monthly meeting of our local witch's coven. When the bride came home I told her we were having a human sacrifice later.

The rehearsal went off without a hitch and the groomsmen had almost as much fun with the wisecracks as I did. The rehearsal dinner was hosted by the groom's family outdoors at a local shop featuring decorative arts for the garden and reclaimed materials from old buildings around the world. We ate delicious grilled chicken and fried catfish amid pools and statuary, the speeches had the sound of dozens of fountains for background music. There was lots of laughter and love. At the end of the evening we were riding home in the car to take our daughter home for her last night in her own bed upstairs where she's been for 20 years since we moved into this house.

Wedding Day: I got up early to post on my blog and have a few moments alone before the sun came up. My daughter got up and we had coffee together and shared memories and talked about the future. We laughed at all the funny things from the rehearsal dinner and remembered a few tender moments. Later, after breakfast I went to the reception venue to decorate then it was back home to collect the bride for our hair appointments and then to the church. She came into the kitchen with her pillow.

"Baby, what are you doing with your pillow?"

"Mom, once we leave I'm not coming back here, so I'm taking it with me."

Okay, that almost got me, but I held tough. 

Within 10 minutes of us all arriving to get ready in the Bride's Room it looked as if there had been an explosion at the mall. It was chaotic and comforting in a girly sort of way. There is something wonderful about another woman telling you she brought 10 shades of lip gloss. My daughter and her friends were entertaining to say the least. Eventually it was time to put on the dress and jewelry. I didn't even tear up then.

Maybe my husband is right when he calls me a "blackheart."

The girls all then disappeared for photos. My husband and son had arrived in their tuxedos and we went over our parts again. All I had to do was remember to stand up when I saw my daughter. I hoped I could remember...The wedding hostess came and got all of us to hide us away. I returned to the bride's room about the same time as the girls. Then it was time to sit and wait...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wedding Day Thoughts

Last night was the rehearsal. Acting out formal ceremonies when everyone is in regular clothes is funny looking. There were laughs and giggles and wisecracks from the groomsmen (okay, and the mother of the bride). It was fun.  After that it was off to the rehearsal dinner and after eating and mingling, it was time for speeches. The father of the bride spoke about a man protecting and providing for his wife, and reminded the couple that marriage is hard. He then told about the day he got the " I'd like your daughter's hand in marriage" speech. "That shows old time respect and I appreciated it." Later a friend of the groom's gave a toast and teared up over the loyalty of his friend. "Dad, you are getting exactly what you want, someone who will always take care of her.."

I get a lot of people asking me how I'm holding up and if I think I'll cry. These are mostly people who don't know me very well. But who knows? I may be overcome with a torrent of overwhelming emotion.

It could happen.

When we stand in the hallway together while music plays and the guests chatter about how lovely the church is and how clever the programs are, I will take one last look around at the original "us."

I have a pretty good idea what I'll be thinking of:  Kids jumping on the bed to wake two sleepy parents up on Christmas morning, birthday parties,  the first date, proms, graduations. A toddler with ruffles on the butt of her bathing suit running down a beach. Learning to swim, ride a bike, drive. Riding the train to New Orleans, the tube in London, a ferry across the Adriatic. As parents you try to capture moments along the way. You want to take a mental picture because you know it is all only temporary.

I remember when they were young and they would talk about how old they would be someday. "When I'm 16 you'll be 10. When I'm 20 you'll be 14! When I'm 26 you'll be 20!" The idea of being those ages was  astonishing to them . The wonder with which they spoke those words was entertaining to a mom who knew it would all happen quick enough.
Weddings are lovely beginnings and touching endings. Some time during the evening a period will be placed at the end of our family sentence. A page is about to turn.

We've all been acutely aware of this for the past few days.

Last Sunday when her engagement announcement was in the paper and we were having a last Sunday morning breakfast together as a family she told me that the a couple of nights before she and her brother were watching TV after I'd gone to bed. "It was some stupid movie and we were making fun of it the way we always do and the kid (that's what she calls him) looked at me and said 'This is probably our last night we'll ever do this." There have been a few times I've thought that myself recently.

And here we are.


Our clothes are all laid out. Our nails are done. People who love the bride and groom and want to help all have their instructions for the day. The out of town guests have arrived. The bills have all been paid and the bride's room is nearly empty because it's all packed up.  I haven't had a big tearful moment yet, maybe I won't. I've got tissues and water proof mascara on hand just in case.

Now. Let's get the show on the road...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Answers to Prayer and Other Cosmic Revelations

The countdown to my daughter's wedding is now in days and hours. I think that big clock from the Space Shuttle launch site would have been a nice touch on the front lawn for wedding week. They aren't using it anymore. Someone should enjoy it.  I've had fun writing these snarky little pre-wedding posts but yesterday on my walk I was struck by joy. Kind of surprised by it a bit, like Lewis. Okay, more smacked on the head with it. God, who apparently has had enough of my whining about this (really what should be glorious) event reminded me of some prayers that had been prayed over the course of the lifetime of the bride.

I'll back up.

Let's call parenting what it is: terrifying. I don't care how many books you read or how consistently you discipline, you are going to wake up in the middle of the night absolutely sure of the fact that you are ruining your offspring. The weight of the task you've undertaken suddenly overwhelms you in the middle of the night and you panic because of course, you have (pick one): spoiled, neglected, been too lenient, been too strict, asked too little, asked too much, coddled, ruined their self image, allowed them to become conceited, made them the center of things too much, ignored them, let them eat too much junk, allowed too much TV, and any other thing that can send parents swirling in guilty despair at three A.M. complete with cold sweats and self loathing.

Guilt: The mother's breakfast of champions. 

Home schooling moms know to add things like: I should have made them take Chinese and French, play the violin, given them more free time, fed them a vegetarian diet, banned television completely, taught them to make their own clothes, take a Dave Ramsey finance course, and moved us to an organic farm where we could live happily off grid and be self sufficient. I love to think of Lisa from Green Acres teaching science while I'm imagining this last scenario. Though it is hard to imagine collecting insects dressed in a fluttering pink peignoir.

Early on I realized my complete inadequacy for the task at hand. Prayers began crib side. No, really before that. Toilet side, as I threw up. "Please God let this be over." And of course, from His perspective, in a cosmos unrestrained by time and space, it suddenly is. Let's give credit where it's due; He did all that I ever asked. Now part of that is in asking for the right things; I've found Him always ready to answer prayers for; wisdom, knowledge, understanding, compassion, a loving heart, and my personal favorite daily request: "Satisfy me this morning, with your unfailing love." I mean really, if we could ever just FEEL LOVED we could save ourselves so much pain. These were things I prayed over my children. And spouses, "Look at this crazy world, how are they ever going to find suitable spouses?" I was a little frantic about that life decision when she was five. Arranged marriages were so obviously a good idea! Why did we do away with them? On many occasions I did all this praying while sitting in their rooms, on the floor  begging God to make up for all my deficiencies. Surely He knew he had to fill in the gaps! Was He crazy putting me in charge of two human beings? Some days I wondered. Maybe He hadn't taken a good look at me lately...

On really bad days I prayed something like:

"But you don't understand, I'm trying so hard and I could save them so much pain if they would listen to me, and they are just so bent on doing it their own way, and they don't listen, and..."

Once when praying this way I had the very clear sense that He was saying to me

"Yes, because of course, Baby,  I don't know anything about any of THAT."

"Oh..."(I realized I was the child in His answer.)

Someone said part of the battle is just showing up every day. That's what I did. I hoped that He would be faithful to do His part. I reminded Him of this, often. "Hey, I'm doing all I know to do down here, so you are going to have to finish the job." Yesterday He reminded me that He has answered all those prayers. The young woman who is going to walk the aisle Saturday is kind and generous. She's compassionate and smart. She has a lovely heart.

 So this week as I watch all these lovely little moments unfold, I'm feeling nearly consumed with gratitude and wonder. 

 And the prayer for a suitable spouse? Not only is he a good match for her, bringing a laid back attitude to balance her slightly OCD self, but he was so seamlessly folded into our family that it almost feels like he's been here the whole time. So yesterday while walking and thinking of all this, I imagined God smiling ( slightly bemused, I'm sure) at what often seemed like prayers of desperation. He must have been thinking all along..."Just you wait."

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).